4 ways to successfully crowdfund a project

When they saw the throngs of people vying to get into a packed drag show during last summer’s Pride Week, Sachil Patel and Alanna O’Connor knew they had their thesis project.

“We just saw the energy of the crowd and we thought there was a strong market for more performances like that,” says Patel. “So we wanted to have another drag show to fill that market.”

So, like most fourth year Radio and Television Arts (RTA) students, they turned to Indiegogo to make that a possibility.

Co-executive producer Patel and a team of six other RTA students created Open Air Productions as part of their fourth year thesis project. Snow Queen, an hour-long holiday-themed drag show, will be the production company’s first show, slated for Dec. 12 at The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre.

RTA students are responsible for securing their own funding for thesis projects, so many have turned to the popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo, as well as more traditional business sponsors and grants. Open Air launched Snow Queen’s Indiegogo campaign with a short, colourful video showing off the project’s drag queen talent and a request for $2,000. So far, they’ve raised $1,940 from 31 funders. And they still have five days left.

So what does a successful Indiegogo campaign look like? Here are some suggestions:

1. Have a well thought-out plan in advance.

Before launching your campaign, it’s important to know what resources you already have, what your deadline for the project is and what your long-term goal is.

“If your idea is still fragmented when you put the campaign up, it doesn’t look professional and will lose people’s faith,” says Patel. “You need to give people the confidence that your project has the ‘umph’ it needs to get going and turn into something.”

2. Attract your audience.

One of the biggest challenges Open Air’s campaign has come up against is simply getting the word out about their project, says Patel.

“You find that a lot of times to direct people to the site, it’s either word-of-mouth or promoting it through your own media channels,” he says.

That’s why, in order to attract an audience, it’s important to have a strong project plan already underway, and to use all available social media to advertise it.

3. Engage your audience.

“If you’re creating something, you have to go in with a video, you have to go in with photos, and you have to go in with dynamic incentives that you’re offering people,” says Alexandra Sebben, marketing director for Open Air Productions.

Indiegogo campaigns with videos raise, on average, 114 per cent more money, Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin told Tech Crunch at a conference last year.

“People are visual,” she explains. To stand out from hundreds of thousands of other crowd-funding campaigns, it’s important to catch the donator’s eye.

4. Keep your audience.

Crowd funding is not just good for raising money – it’s also great for finding a market.

“You want people to still be engaged with the project, and you want to interact with them after they donate,” explains Patel. “You want to give them that stakeholder feeling.”

“We really wanted to build a strong following and a relationship with our audience,” says Sebben.

[P]hoto: Open Air Productions is a group of 7, fourth year students from the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University. (Photo courtesy of Snow Queen 2014)